Eugene Hutz, the gasoline in the Gogol Bordello engine wants to look in your eyes during their shows. During our interview we discussed the transformational energy that is sweeping the globe, the transfer of energy between artist and fan, writing a new album over the course of one night and what it means to be punk rock. He gives a lot of himself but feels it’s worth it for all he gets in return. This interview is from October 19th, 2013.
Eugene: What ís up?
Daniel: Glad to talk to you; glad we could make it happen.
Eugene: Me too. Just finished playing a bunch of shows in LA
Daniel: I know; I saw you at 2 of the shows
Eugene: Yeah it was good.
Daniel: A lot of you guys are living out here now?
Eugene: The universe is expanding and so are we baby.
Daniel: Always good to broaden your horizons. Where are you right now?
Eugene: Right now I am in New York city.
Daniel: Cool; what is your favorite destination on this planet?
Eugene: Well I have a bunch.
Daniel: You have a bunch; what are your top 3?
Eugene: Top 3; that is easy. That is Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and then New York City.
Daniel: Nice; what about Kiev ?
Eugene: Its there; I mean I love Kiev. Even though so much time has passed since I left because 4 of my friends are still there, it seemed like I didn’t miss a beat on the development so it is less of a home there but it is all about to change because I am opening a club; a concert venue in Kiev , I am opening it actually in November 2013 so it has all been coming together for a couple of several years. So it is going to be a pretty massive deal for me and for everybody in that part of Europe. It will be a very fun playground for all creative people down there.
Daniel: Nice; I am sure that must have been a long life vision more than just the last few years huh?
Eugene: Actually I didn’t; this isn’t specifically my idea but several things came together. On one hand I have been traveling for a while and collecting old goods and putting together musicians and I have gathered a lot especially in the last decade you know exploring different places besides New York; and Paris and the more obvious places. But I worked in South America for 5 years and pretty much felt compelled like I need to bring all back to some place where people are going to really dig in and fuck man right about same time several friends of mine who back in Ukraine also said you know man you are like our Madonna so you want to do this fucking thing? You want to start a club just we agreed on the name Gogol Bar-Dello
Daniel: Bar-Dello; nice.
Eugene: Yes about 1300 people capacity
Daniel: It ís pretty big
Eugene: Yeah it is pretty big and we are all pretty psyched about it
Daniel: What does the opening night look like; what is happening there?
Eugene: Well we are going down there for a massive residence actually. We are going to take advantage of the bar, break from touring in January I think and go down there with Pedro being the main resident DJs and MCs and we are going to export all fucking goods. We are going to import them into Ukraine; everything, all the friends we have made, all the music, all the musical friends we have made, bands that we love from those states.
Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and I expect it to be mostly cross pollination for a Latin flamboyant creative underground and eastern European underground. It is non exclusive and of course there will be a lot of people from names that you are familiar with from New York. It is part of me, this one, you know I have been in Rio and Buenos Aires for the past 5 years but I come back to New York and in the same time it is like they never even realized that I left the city because I am there often.
Just like I am taking my breakfast and the coffee same as it was 13 years ago.
Daniel: Right; let me ask you a question. How do you explain any of your commercial success like my friends and family were always surprised that a band this good; this different has resonated with so many people you know particularly Americans. Do you think that you would be successful if the music industry were still thriving or do you think it is because you do it yourself, attitude, social media? how much is Brooklyn and that time and place is a part of it; how do you explain your commercial success and do you think it would be possible 15 years ago?
Eugene: 15 years ago it would have been triple possible. Yeah 15 years ago it would be even much more easier but just 15 years ago we would be probably plastered with dollar bills from major labels but there is a right time for everything so I actually don’t ever wonder about it I am not to put up on the analysis of it all but of course to do it yourself is of course the foundation of it and it is the only foundation of anything that lasts.
If you do it yourself it means that you are doing it and loving it and love is the biggest engine in the world. There is nothing bigger, thriving and lasting than a connection with your own passion . The rest of the circumstances are; you know the whole planet is moving. there is a massive tendency that is happening throughout the world of embracing each other and that we were just one of the forces that was really pushing for that idea.
Idea which is just one canvass; one big family and there wasn’t any other fucking other way to look at that.
People who were hooked up were just cutting up the cake and setting up economical traps and preaching horrible ideas like fucking politics of separation and all these big progressive ideas. This is why integration is important it’s because it slowly but surely brings everybody to an understanding that human path is indeed one single family.
So was I just self serving and being in the mix; I am a good you know I was just; I happen to be a song writer who can encapsulate the situation because I was on the inside of it and then on the outside of it and then on the inside of it again.
I am back and forth all the time because most of my friends are still like dealing with all these problems
Daniel: It is interesting because you travel a lot so you get to see more kinds of people more often. It feels like when we are in the city in the same place, living our lives like most people do, it doesn’t seem like we are becoming more one. But hearing it from you makes me feel like that is true but I also wonder if that’s people rallying around the music; if people forget all their daily lives when they are at a show and they are inspired.
Eugene: Well maybe you don’t feel like you feel being inside a Mc Donald then you go and see a band like ours and then that pretty strong signal that it is happening, right?
Even if you go to Amoeba records music store without wearing your blinders without going just straight you are like you are conditioned that you are curved for yourself strictly into English speaking music.
This is just like one that”s a little bit into everything, creativity exploding all over the world. I mean American music is probably still remains to be the best production music; there is no doubt about it.
However people are learning all over the world to produce and to record massively but their creativity was never lagging behind at any level in the world it is actually a lot more powerful.
Daniel: Agreed; absolutely. Right; yeah I mean it is good. It is funny having a conversation with you makes me more optimistic from your point of view because; maybe it is America I don’t know but you watch CNN or you go the post office and it is the opposite of the togetherness that you speak of; you know what I mean? I don’t know if it is this country or what it is but maybe the family is losing a little bit of focus but it always seems like there is always 2 sides like there is the one side where everyone is positive and together and then there is the other side where people are going shopping on the thanksgiving sale and murdering each other for a play station.
So it is always good to be reminded that there are always 2 sides to the human spirit.
Eugene: Yeah; absolutely but the important thing is that is that you always have to remember your own responsibilities as often as possible to wake up and see the sun come up. Just because it is not something on schedule designed by somebody else.
If it is not in your schedule; if it is not in your schedule which is designed by somebody else essentially because your job or your character whatever; life situation then you just are not going to see anything, you are not going to remember and it is not going to stimulate your status or remind you how the planet wakes up.
It is there every morning but if you miss it, you miss it man and if you are too busy rushing around you are going to miss it. So I say it’s a huge responsibility to yourself to peel off all these desensitizing layers and look further , optimism will naturally die when you are at this trolley bus mode.
Daniel: You commute more; exactly.
Eugene: Well we are people; we are adventurous but think about it. We are nomads for thousands of years and we are used to it. We are used to a certain degree of; we require certain degrees of newness and not the fucking noose
Daniel: Right; that is for sure.
Eugene: The newness of new faces, new music, new lovers, new beats, new thousand forms, new food and forms and shapes and new weather; renewal if you will.
Daniel: Yeah cool man I have another question for you and switching it up just a little bit. What does it mean to you to be punk?
Eugene: Alright since I am speaking with people who are actually aware and know what punk is like 99% of people out on the street who think it was born of like it all comes from the mall. You know for me it is not something; I am really shocked and I am surprised to see like the back drop on a shell; some of our backdrops have Gypsy Punk on it and I am like oh wow that word is still with me;
It is so deeply buried into me that I am not conscious of that its just inside if I would discover punk through some kind of video with another person, I would go probably like wow it is like this and like and that but it is a form of life for so many years and basically doing it all yourself because the biggest part of punk you know back when we were 14 and 15 made our first electric guitars out of plywood and made their own distortion pedals out of like parts from radio and other electrical devices taken apart; for me who actually made my own drums set together with my dad who was also rock and roller out of big metal fish cans skinned with massive layers of scotched tape.
It made all recordings in on our own apartment and basement; that was like the way you do it so it was just such a natural part of this is how you do it and everyone around us was like that so for me punk is not something basically, a synonym for me for doing what you really love to do and doing it to really believe in, we only started with that type of punk that was very creative and kind of crazy and fucking flamboyant like I dont know the clash and stooges as opposed to punk that were really kind of angry that really didn’t mean so much to me.
All these films started about punk rock like the Decline of the Western Civilization these films started to pop up and other films, from anthropological point of view it was so obvious that punk is probably was at the time the most authentic expression of people going and being to what it is that they really fucking need. What is it that they really want to do; what is it that they really love? To me it was more important and crucial than people who were digging in the sports or reaching the highs and other areas of life because punk was not compartmentalized.
It was not other areas of life were already kind of on a certain shelf of society and they had status. Punk never had any fucking status; it wasn’t even certain if it is cool or not. Now it is considered to be cool; back then nobody knew what is and that was fucking cool; it was a fucking mess; it was chaos and therefore it was completely great playground to explore yourself.
Daniel: Beautiful; absolutely more people were scared of it you know not just whether it was cool or not they were like what fucking the fuck is this. We are all going to explode.
Eugene: Exactly they couldn’t put the finger on it; now the finger is put on it.
Daniel: Right; I think that you put it very succinctly and definitely no need to say anymore than how you already put it. Let me ask you this; so I went to 3 of your shows in the last couple of weeks. I went to two LA shows, I went to the first night of LA, the second night of LA and then I went to the Cosmopolitan in Vegas and to me I am always amazed to see like the varied effects that the same songs have on different people. I like to see the band on so many consecutive nights especially if I love the band to see how the different audiences reacts.
So my question is do you remember shows a week later; do they start to blend together like which out of those shows, which of those were your favorite and why and how much of the crowd is important to your performance and their energy?
Eugene: You know the shows in the memory don’t really stand out because of let’s put it this way; the shows get remembered more by the particular energetic glow for me at night. It is really the set list how we twist the things about and what I said to the audience and what was the reaction.
Things like that are hardly remembered but things the summary of the glowing eyes in the front of me is what my take away of the situation.
That is my music and that is my mark really.The sparkling in the eyes.
Yeah; they always sparkle differently in kind of a indescribable way but that is the turnabout of the energy that we put out there. How much the fire that signifies how much of turnabout of energy has completed to me.
I am very aware and energy driven person so if like it is like one fireball of that maybe more blue; another night the fireball of that might be more red.
So that to me kind of alchemy like essentially they are already reacting off human chemistry. A band alone is already super energetic and once I share it with the audience for me it is important where the energy goes. So I want to turn the audience into, I want them to connect with those specific frequencies which is quite high and quite loving and elevating. So that is where my ambition lays as a performer; it’s elevating the people to the point of where I am at.
Because once they are higher I will get higher and I will pick them higher and there is a lot of enjoyment in there. There is a lot of pure soulful energy blasting away and exchange of energy.
Daniel: Well absolutely; I mean all musicians who work with that, just some other more conscious of that or less or so many of them are actually so unconscious about it that they are losing a lot of energy without getting anything back.
Eugene: Because they are shoe gazing and not seeing the sparkling high or they are so caught up on their performative persona that the person behind it doesn’t really get any energy back. For us it all about cracking the case on a spot and elevating, uplifting.
Daniel: I will tell you what; you know it is interesting; I will tell you what I saw like because I was born and raised in LA by way of Odessa but I was the only one in my family born here. I was born and raised in LA so I have seen a lot of LA crowds then I went to see the Vegas show and it is so funny; it is like every time it’s the first night of an L.A. show it is like that is where all the douche bags come who have to be there on the first night; you know what I mean?
I saw a totally different performance on the first night than I did on the second night in LA which is I have never seen an LA crowd get that excited in that type of venue and then the Vegas show which was; there was a lot of really positive energy in that show and one thing I also noticed was how different you kind of reacted by for example it seemed like the drama at the end of the Vegas show Oliver, right? It seemed like he was done.
He wanted to be done like he threw the drumsticks in the crowd and it felt like you wanted to give the audience a little bit more because they gave you a lot in that show. Would you say that if you can recall, would be accurate or do you see that energy; are you ever disappointed with an audience?
Eugene: Yeah; just part of it I felt like the show had to continue. I had definitely sure to deliver and so I always go out and do the set list. The simplest seems like it is never enough; I guess part of it is that once you do the list you still want to do something; you still want to twist the list.
Yeah; so you twist the list to add some things that you didn’t even expect yourself and just improvisation is very important for me. I could not tell you how many times I have been offered to do various things in Broadway.
Because of the general flamboyance of my performance and the whole band kind of spirit we have been offered things from do all musical writing for a musical, being part of the musical, taking roles but I just absolutely cannot see myself doing a choreographed performance that is; I just cannot see myself doing that kind of performance like that is just so foreign
Daniel: We will see when you guys have your price eventually. Well I am very happy to do this interview. I definitely went off the script a lot more than I thought I would and it is a pleasure talking to you.
You are a great interview and me and my whole family loves your music;
Eugene: Oh, before I forget, I just started writing a new album; yesterday it was a full moon.
Daniel: You started writing it yesterday; exactly yesterday?
Eugene: Yeah; I came from training; I had a long training for 5 hours and I came from one of martial art training and I opened completely new fresh page and I started writing down. It seemed like 10 different songs had been in my head; 10 new ones; 10 new beginnings and I was looking at it and I was like wow that is the draft for a new album and I went outside and the moon was bright and I was like I get it, it was the full moon. It was so bright and I was so high I was like wow that is the energy to start a new album with.
Daniel: So beats and everything or just lyrics?
Eugene: Oh well I started like I usually write many songs at once so I had like an album, it seemed like around 10 songs maybe more maybe less but that was it man. Thanks for the interview.
Daniel: I can’t wait to hear it man. Let us know when it comes out and when you come back into town.
Eugene: Thanks, Danny.